As someone who claims to love “asian food,” I’m a bit ashamed to say that I don’t know Korean food well at all. The first and only time I’ve been to a full-fledged Korean restaurant (not Korean fusion or kinda-sorta-all-asian-cuisines restaurant), I sampled every type of small plate and slurped down the soup whose name I couldn’t pronounce then and do not remember now. I remember liking it. But I remember everything feeling so foreign that I couldn’t imagine going back without my Korean friend. Since then, I’ve had bibimbap here, kimchi there, and some sort of Korean fried chicken. And that is the extent of my Korean experience.
Since I now live across the country from my Korean friend, is it socially acceptable to bring a cookbook out to a restaurant to help me decipher a foreign menu? Koreatown by Deuki Hong & Matt Rodbard not only makes an amazing cookbook filled with adventurous recipes I feel comfortable trying at home, but it would make a great guide for the beginner Korean food-eater (like myself). Hong and Rodbard lay out the basics of korean cooking and offer you a basic grocery list (with explanations) so you can quickly start making dishes from this book, often explaining the origination or traditional style of each dish so you can become more educated in the cuisine.
But you get so much more than you bargained for with this cookbook. Not only do they fully explain each dish and provide you the perfect blueprint for creating them at home, they immerse you in the Koreatown culture of America. With interviews from famous authors, musicians, and chefs, Rodbard and Hong paint the perfect picture of Korean food in America and the incredible people behind it. All the photographs are documentary style- taken right in restaurants in Koreatown, not styled or made prettier than your end result will be. They want to show you Korean food in it’s true form, and they have me hooked! Armed with this book, I’m ready to comfortably visit more Korean restaurants and make my own dishes at home.
Adventurous cooks who love Asian food, are familiar with Asian cooking styles, and frequent an Asian grocery.
Also recommended for those interested in the world of Korean food, not just recipes. If things like interviews, chef talk, history lessons, and illustrations in cookbooks bug you, don’t buy this book.
What I love:
I love just about everything! The stories, explanations, interviews, informal pictures, and recipes are all my style. I love when cookbooks share more than just recipes. I prefer to delve into the subject and learn more about chefs, culture, and the culinary world. I could sit down with this book for a while, have a pleasant read, and learn quite a bit!
What I don’t love:
As someone who isn’t as familiar with Korean food, I would have appreciated more pictures of the dishes for reference, at least so I know what all those little dishes Korean restaurant’s serve at the beginning of the meal are.
Recipes worth trying:
Jap Chae (Wok fried glass noodles with shiitakes)
Kongguksu (Soy milk noodle soup)
Butter Mandu (Butter dumplings)
Bulgogi (Soy-marinated rib eye)
Kimchi Triple-Cream Grilled Cheese
Coca-Cola and Gochujang-Marinaged Chicken Thighs
Korean Sloppy Joe
Interviews with famous authors, musicians, and chefs who love to eat and/or make Korean food!
I was also very happy to find 2 ice cream recipes and a feature on a Korean ice cream maker! Right up my alley…
I love this book and I’m so happy Blogging for Books sent me a copy in exchange for a review!